The Smithereens are a rock band from Carteret, New Jersey, United States. The group, formed in 1980, has consisted of Pat DiNizio (vocals & guitar), Jim Babjak (guitar & vocals), Mike Mesaros (bass guitar & vocals), and Dennis Diken (drums & percussion) until 2006, when Mike parted ways with the band. Severo “The Thrilla” Jornacion currently fills his spot.
Babjak, Diken and Mesaros are all from Carteret, New Jersey and had graduated in 1975 from Carteret High School. The three joined together to form the band in 1980 with DiNizio, who is from Scotch Plains, New Jersey.
The Smithereens are known for writing and playing catchy 1960s-influenced power pop. The group gained some publicity when a single from its first album, “Blood and Roses”, was included on the soundtrack for, and as the theme song of the 1986 Albert Pyun movie, Dangerously Close, and the video got some moderately heavy rotation on MTV. The group spent some time in its initial semi-celebrity phase defending itself in Rolling Stone against thinly-veiled accusations of sounding too much like The Byrds and The Beatles, pointing out that its Marshall Amplifier-heavy live sound was closer to heavy metal than it was to The Beatles. The Smithereens have always worn their inspirations proudly, but the band also influenced other musicians, most notably Kurt Cobain during the period he was writing Nevermind. Ironically, some feel the Smithereens (like many early 1990s bands) were hurt by the rise of grunge music.
Along with a basic Eastern-coast roots-rock sound that owed much to the inspirations of DiNizio, including Buddy Holly, The Who, The Clash, Elvis Costello, and Nick Lowe, the Smithereens deployed a uniquely retro obsession with Mod, the late British Invasion pop of John’s Children and The Move, and other artifacts of fifties and sixties culture that lent its music substance. The title and lyrics of their song, “In a Lonely Place,” appear to be based on the 1950 Humphrey Bogart film of the same name, including the lyrics, “I was born the day I met her, lived a little when she loved me, died a little when we broke apart.”
The Smithereens featured as the entertainment in the indoor beach party scene of the Troma film Class of Nuke ‘Em High, playing the song “Much Too Much”.
The highest position a Smithereens album attained on the Billboard pop charts was in 1990, when 11 peaked at #41 on the strength of the single “A Girl Like You” (which hit #38).
The Smithereens have collaborated with numerous musicians, both in the studio (Suzanne Vega and Belinda Carlisle) and live (Graham Parker and The Kinks).
The group, which has long had a reputation for playing excellent live shows, is still active and tours frequently. Their next studio album is expected to be released in early 2009.